Emotions, morbidity, and mortality: new perspectives from psychoneuroimmunology

Annu Rev Psychol. 2002;53:83-107. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.53.100901.135217.


Negative emotions can intensify a variety of health threats. We provide a broad framework relating negative emotions to a range of diseases whose onset and course may be influenced by the immune system; inflammation has been linked to a spectrum of conditions associated with aging, including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, Alzheimer's disease, frailty and functional decline, and periodontal disease. Production of proinflammatory cytokines that influence these and other conditions can be directly stimulated by negative emotions and stressful experiences. Additionally, negative emotions also contribute to prolonged infection and delayed wound healing, processes that fuel sustained proinflammatory cytokine production. Accordingly, we argue that distress-related immune dysregulation may be one core mechanism behind a large and diverse set of health risks associated with negative emotions. Resources such as close personal relationships that diminish negative emotions enhance health in part through their positive impact on immune and endocrine regulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Aging / immunology
  • Anxiety / immunology
  • Depression / immunology
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Estrogens / physiology
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Personality
  • Psychoneuroimmunology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors


  • Estrogens